Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Journey - Kenya - Getting There

--An excerpt from a paper I wrote about an experience that changed my life, 2011

 “A year and a half ago I visited Kenya, Africa for the first time. My husband and I went there with our kids to see his family. It was the first time in my life that I had ever left the United States. I was born and raised in Idaho population, entirely too small for my liking, and I had never really had to think about what it was that I believed in or what it was exactly that I knew for sure until that point. It wasn’t until I experienced something so far on the other end of the spectrum that I was forced to look inside. Kenya was a wake-up call and a rapid 32 day perspective change all rolled in to one for me. I never felt as alive as I did when I was in Kenya. Some say that Kenya is 75 years behind the U.S. but for me it was just what I needed to regain perspective in my life. The biggest contrast for me was the noise level of Kenya compared to the U.S. it was so much quieter there. For me Kenya was filled with some of the most beautiful silences that I had ever heard in my life and I heard the silences everywhere. I heard them in countless steamy cups of tea around the dinner table and in walks to hang up the clothes to dry in the afternoon sunshine.  I heard it in conversations between people speaking two different languages and in the markets filled with fresh produce. I heard it in whole families closing their eyes to give thanks, in burros taking milk to town. I heard it in ocean waves, in the chopping of knives preparing dinner and in nights filled with candles instead of electricity.  I heard it in songs rejoicing of family home, in the quite goodbyes, and promises to return soon.”

When I left the U.S. to visit Kenya for the first time, I had spent the two prior months researching and packing. I had no idea what to expect from this country. All I knew was that I had two young children and I wanted to be prepared for everything. I was overwhelmed with anxiety. My son was still nursing at the time and in diapers. My daughter was a bit more self sufficient but not by much, she was to turn five while we were there. We were also going during the Christmas holiday and it would be the first time in my life that I would be away from my family for Christmas. So I also bought and packed Christmas presents for my kids. My husband tried to prepare me. We talked and talked for hours about what to expect, who would be there and customs that I should remember to follow.

I ended up packing eight full suitcases, four backpacks, four rolling carry-on's and one large double stroller. In total 17 pieces of luggage. I packed everything from clothes for every occasion, to an entire bag dedicated to diapers, and every possible first aid and medication item that someone would ever possibly need, including my own medications. In talking to my mother-in-law and researching about traveling to Africa, I discovered some things about packing. I made sure to not pack a pair of shoes in one bag together. The left shoe went in one bag and the right in another so that they wouldn't be stolen. No electronics in checked bags ever and my husbands personal belief - pack a couple of stained crappy shirts and put them on the top of each bag so that when someone opens it they will think that there is nothing in that bag worth taking. I don't know if this works or not but I did it anyways. I even packed my own french press for my coffee and instant Starbucks Via. I was basically packing as though I was going to be on Survivor for 32 days with my family and I had to think of everything that we would ever need in that time frame. Looking back on it now, it was grossly ridiculous. I went into Kenya an over consuming spoiled American and I came out a person changed forever.

We had booked our tickets six months in advance and were traveling from Idaho to Utah to New Jersey to Paris to Nairobi. Five cities, three layovers, ten time zones, 36 hours of total traveling time, this would equal complete exhaustion. I’m going to remind you again that I had a nursing child during all of these flights and he didn't have his own seat and it turns out that I would hold him for about 35 of 36 hours of flying. To top it all off Kaya managed to throw up all the way from New Jersey to France (it was a good thing I had packed four extra outfits). It is normal whenever there is a change in environment for children to want their mom. This is equally great as a mom if you have anything to give them. I was trying really hard to keep it together but about hour 26 of no sleep and constant nursing, I handed my son to Mark and went to the bathroom for a moment. If I was feeling overwhelmed before, this was whatever comes after completely overwhelmed. I really thought hard about getting into Paris and taking a flight back to the U.S.. When you are as overloaded as I was at the time, the smallest things seem to completely push you over the edge. This was a bit larger than a small thing, my body was completely taxed with all of the nursing, dehydration, lack of sleep, and constant sitting. I also didn't remember to take my anti depressants at the same time as I usually did so my brain was feeling a bit sketchy. I shed a few tears in that small plastic cubical over the Atlantic Ocean and then offered up a plea to whomever might be listening to just give me the strength and patience to finish the flight and make it to Kenya. After all, I was beyond excited to meet my husband’s family and to see where he grew up and I was equally anxious for the unknown component of traveling to an entirely different continent. 

We made the 9 hour flight to France but barely made our connection. We were running through the Paris airport at 2 am in the morning our time with both kids crying in exhaustion. Me with three backpacks on, holding Malik and pulling two carry-on's one on top of the other. While Mark was holding Kaya, a backpack and a gigantic double stroller. At one point I was like, "Holy hell I'm in France and on the other side I was thinking, "I might just die here, so many bags, so much running, this might just be my limit, here in France this is where it all falls apart." But I kept going and we made it to a ticket counter to see where our new gate was, I yelled at a nice French ticket lady that "I didn't speak French!" when she asked me where we were going. It turns out that she was actually speaking English with a French accent. We barely made it onto the plane before the gates closed. All of us so tired by the time we sat down on that Kenyan Airways flight, we were completely spent. Kenyan Airways was just what I needed, I know that if it would have been any less I probably would have had a nervous breakdown right there on that plane. They brought me a huge bottle of water and Malik a bassinet to sleep in, put us in the bulkhead so we had extra room and offered us cool menthol infused cloths to wipe down with. The cool cloths were most greatly appreciated because I had not taken into account that the more East we went, the warmer that it would become at the time of year. I had on a full valor sweat suit and UGG boots. By the time I got to those cloths it was like a cool lake in 105.2 degree weather. I was able to sigh a huge breath out and for a brief moment enjoy the flight into Africa. Well at least the 60 minutes that Malik slept, then it was back to holding and nursing, nursing and holding. 

 By the time the airplanes wheels hit Kenya I was ready to Usain Bolt off of that plane. I had never been so grateful to have fresh air in all of my life. We got off of the plane, walked down stairs and onto the tarmac into the airport. It was dark, 11 pm and the warm air slide past my cheeks and into my hair. I took a huge breath of African air and slowly let it out. I looked down to watch my feet walking on Kenyan soil. I couldn't believe that we had actually made it.  

Check in next week for another installment of My Journey. If you’ve missed previous installments catch up on them here! My story of Kenya will probably last a couple of posts because I have so much to write about it!


  1. I was laughing throughout most of this! Funny and terrible at the same dang time! Can't wait for the next one! !

    1. Thank you! Now I can laugh at it but at the time I thought I was going to die! Thanks for commenting!